Delving Into Dragon Quest: Hand of the Heavenly Bride – #4

I think I’m nearing the end of Hand of the Heavenly Bride. It’s just a feeling I have.

As we’ve previously discussed, Dragon Quest is not generally a series for making a huge deal out of significant narrative moments, preferring to allow you to draw your own meaning from them rather than attempting to force you to feel a particular way through lengthy cutscenes.

This doesn’t make those significant moments any less meaningful or effective, however — it’s just a markedly different treatment of these events than you’d find in many other games.

In my most recent session with the game, I brought several dangling narrative threads to a satisfying conclusion. I found my wife, I tracked down the missing Zenithian Dragon, and I defeated those who were responsible for the death of my father, Pankraz. But there’s still plenty more to do from the look of things.

If you’ve been following my adventures to date, you’ll know that all of those events I just described are extremely significant to Hand of the Heavenly Bride’s overarching storyline. And they all end up intertwining somewhat, too.

During your quest, you learn of the fate of Zenithia, the castle that once stood proudly above the clouds and housed the Zenithian Dragon, the guardian of this world. Indeed, in Chapters of the Chosenyou get to see this heavenly realm first-hand as it was intended, but that game’s narrative unfolded long before Hand of the Heavenly Bride, and things have changed considerably since then.

Long story short, Zenithia is at the bottom of a lake, the Zenithian Dragon is conspicuous by his absence and with Bad Things looking like they are looming on the horizon, it seems like a very good idea to try and sort these problems out. Your son is the new Legendary Hero, after all, so it’s sort of his job to get on with this, even if he’s still a kid who occasionally wets the bed.

While exploring a cavern, you encounter a strange chap called Dr. Agon, who appears to have been going around and around in a mine cart for a good few years by the time you stumble across him. Once you rescue him, he seems to know an awful lot about Zenithia; once you finally track down the sunken castle — whose magical power is still just about intact enough to allow you to breathe and walk around normally despite being at the bottom of a lake — he reveals exactly what the problem is.

It seems one of the two magical orbs that power the castle’s ability to fly is missing. And it turns out that you’ve had some previous contact with this very orb — a golden sphere that you acquired as a child, but which was destroyed by your father’s killer when he left you for dead. The faeries apparently made this orb but rather inconveniently, they have lost the ability to produce something with that much magical energy over the years. As such, making a brand new orb is somewhat out of the question, but there’s a glimmer of hope.

When you were a kid, you encountered a strange young man dressed rather like you, but obviously much older than you. Obviously already knowing you had the golden orb, he asked to see it, and you complied after some initial misgivings. You never saw him again after that.

Of course, this strange young man who looked like you was you, and now you’re older it’s time to fulfil the other end of that particular incident. The faeries do as good a job as they can with making a new golden orb, but it’s clearly inferior to the original. It is, however, convincing enough to trick your younger self when you make use of a magical painting to travel back in time through your memories, swap the two orbs and bring the real one back into the present. You’re then able to raise Zenithia from its watery grave and make use of it as a rather grandiose new means of transportation. If it wasn’t already clear that you and your family are A Bit Special (in a good way) by this point, the raising of Zenithia should leave you without any doubts in your mind.

One job down, but there’s still more to do: the Zenithian Dragon is still missing, and your wife is still nowhere to be seen. Dr. Agon has a lead on the former; there’s a mysterious tower (it’s always a mysterious tower in Dragon Quest) in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by mountains, that will likely provide some helpful clues as to how the Zenithian Dragon’s power was sealed. He provides you with a grappling hook for your exploration — in an interesting twist on the usual tower formula, you climb all the way up the outside before rappelling down the inside to get into the dungeon proper.

As you descend the tower, you discover a huge dragon statue whose eyes are missing, but there seems to be nothing you can do at that time. So you continue your descent, beyond ground level and into an underground area. There, you encounter Slon the Rook, lackey of Bishop Ladja and the one who inflicted most of the injury on your father before Ladja finished him off. Being, by this point, stronger than your father was in the prologue chapter, you naturally make short work of him  — an extremely satisfying, meaningful moment, for sure, but one the game doesn’t dwell on any more than you wish to — and discover he was guarding one of the two dragon eyes.

Delving further into the dungeon, you come across Ladja himself, though despite you besting him in a fierce battle, he escapes before you are able to defeat him completely. He does, however, leave behind the other dragon eye, so you head off to plug them into where they obviously came from. A secret passage opens, leading you to a room holding a magical orb that you can sense holds the Zenithian Dragon’s sealed power.

You take this back to Zenithia only to discover that Dr. Agon, whom the surviving Zenithians believe to be an impostor among them, is actually the Zenithian Dragon himself. Returning the orb to him restores him to his full glory — and if you’re anything like me, leaves you feeling rather stupid that you didn’t notice the very obvious hint dropped by his “alias” right from the moment you met him in that cave.

There’s just one thing left to do at this point — rescue your wife from the temple of Zugzwang, a mountaintop temple that you have horrible memories of. It was here you spent ten years as a slave after the death of your father helping to build the monstrous shrine to evil, before finally escaping to begin your quest proper. And now you have to go back there…

As you can probably tell by now, I’m absolutely totally invested in this game. Despite its storytelling being relatively simple, these moments carried real meaning and significance to my personal journey through the game’s quest. It’s a powerful example of how sometimes “less is more”, and that you don’t necessarily need powerful hardware, impressive graphics or spectacular cutscenes to tell an epic fantasy story.

By the next time we meet for this column, I hope I’ll be able to report my victory over the Grandmaster of the Underworld!

More about Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride

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